Rally-O Class #2: Tension in the leash

Yesterday was another day of record-breaking heat here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I found out rather quickly that the warehouse space that houses K9Jym is not air conditioned [update-K9Jym is now airconditioned so go play!]. They do have a lounge that’s nice and cool so that’s where Kasey and I headed when we arrived about 10 minutes before class. I slowly opened the door to the lounge with Kasey just preceding me on a short lead.

BAM! SNAP! HIGH PITCHED BARKING. Apparently the teacher’s dog took an instant dislike to Kasey (who’s never met a dog he didn’t want to play with) and when I got Kasey to the other side of the room and worked on “Watch Me!” to get him back focused on me, I saw that he had a small bloody spot on his nose. I don’t think he’s ever been nipped before. It sucks that it had to happen in what’s supposed to be a safe spot and it especially sucks that it had to be the teacher’s dog. I was freaked out but willing to shake it off, since Kasey seemed to be OK both physically and mentally.

Class started and I had Kasey gnawing on his frozen peanut butter Kong and I was listening. Sounded like it was going to be a bit more of a challenge this time, with some moves that Kasey and I hadn’t ever tried. That’s good, that’s what we came for. We went 2nd to the course. Last week Kasey only had eyes for me…well actually only for the turkey dogs I was using as treats. This week, because our teacher was using her dog to demonstrate, he was out on the course with her and it was really hard to get Kasey to focus on me. I’d never seen him try to stare down a dog before but he certainly wanted to last night. It was all I could do to get him around the course, say nothing about doing a good job trying out the new skills.

The teacher was perfectly aware of what was going on. I’m not sure if she chose not to hand her dog to the other instructor because she wanted Kasey to learn from the distraction (a bit much for the 2nd class, if you ask me) or if she just didn’t think it was her job to change the situation. I don’t know. I was trying to keep myself from getting tense, because if I did, Kasey absolutely was not going to relax. I tried all the tricks I knew to get him to focus on me. We stopped in the middle of the course at one point because he wasn’t with me at all, really. I figured, hey it was only the second class, better to stop and get him to think it’s all fun and games and and that I wasn’t worried at all, why should he be? We started up again and made it to the end, at least.

We moved on to focus on practicing one sign. “Call forward right turn,” I think, and we did get it eventually. I was proud of both of us. Kasey did much better when the teacher and her dog moved to the far side of the room to work with some other teams. He really does want to be a good boy and do what I ask. But if someone had bitten me on the nose, I’d be a bit wary too, wouldn’t you?

I’m not sure what to do at this point. I really like the instructor, but her “oh, he’s a little reactive if you hadn’t noticed” was really not the response I was looking for. Maybe, “sorry, is your dog, OK, let’s keep them a good distance apart.” But I felt like she was blowing it off. Maybe she was embarrassed? She’s a good and patient teacher and her dog is very good at Rally and tricks and listens to her very well. It seemed to be just a personality clash. But at the same time, I want to keep Kasey safe and for him to have a good time. If she keeps bringing her dog with her, I’m not sure if that will be possible. For now, I’ll wait and see, I guess. I don’t want to pull out of the class. If anyone reading has suggestions please comment, I’ll take any advice I can get, for sure!

5 Responses to “Rally-O Class #2: Tension in the leash”

  1. 1 Ark Lady April 30, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    In the past, I have taken my dog into class to use him for demonstrations but always kept him under control or confined if I could not be totally focused on the interactions.

    Personally, I didn’t like reading what happened (also she should be focused on the students at such an early stage) nor did I like her response/lack of response.

    From an outsider’s perspective–and without seeing the incident–I would encourage you to find another class and instructor.

    Both of you will learn better and be more relaxed in the class if you do so–it is hard enough to focus and perform without the additional stress.

    Did you have the opportunity to speak with the instructor about the incident? I saw the response and wonder if you pursued it further.

    Why would she say he is a little over reactive? What triggered the incident? Were you not aware of the other dog in the room–and was that dog leashed or loose?

    Anyway, if you don’t feel safe enough to discuss and resolve the issue or if she did not take steps to pull you aside later–consider that nudge to move elsewhere.

  2. 2 allforthedog April 30, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I didn’t pursue it further, actually. I probably should have. I was going to see if she used what happened as a cue to do something differently with her dog next time. If not, I was going to pull from the class and tell the owner of the gym my reasons for doing so. I’m so non-confrontational, which I know can be a detriment at times like this!

  3. 3 allforthedog April 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Oh and no, I couldn’t see inside of the lounge to see that there was a dog next to the door.

  4. 4 NEPhillydoggrrl June 16, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Hi, just found your blog, so I’m replying late to your “so I’m a little late.” About Kasey getting nipped by instructor’s dog–ouch, and I hope all is well now. You mentioned something I thought was significant, however–Kasey was on a short lead, but preceded you through the doorway. If you teach her a solid “wait” at doorways, then you will be able to check out what’s on the other side before entering. It’s a good thing to teach as a safety measure, for doors inside a house or building, and doors leading to the outside. It’s also good to teach a “wait” at the top and bottom of stairways (if you’ve read McConnell and others, then you know the leader always goes first), for situations such as when you have to carry a big laundry basket down the stairs and don’t want to get tripped by the dog.

    Good luck with your continued Rally training. It’s a lot of fun.

  5. 5 Lori June 16, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks! Those are good tips. Kasey and I finished out Rally I and start Rally II on Monday. You’ve reminded me that I need to update. :O)

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